I know that writing online seems, at least, to offer various new opportunities for the writer (the ability to link to things for example, the ability to interact with your reader). Yet I’m doubtful these ‘opportunities’ breed better writing. The way I’ve always been ‘taught’ (by editors, by myself) to write is that everything must be demonstrated hermetically within the text. Perhaps this is old fashioned, but one must never rely on an image or a link to do the work of the writer. One can see the mania for interaction catalysing articles that seem written solely with the purpose of grubbing comments (and the resulting page imprints, one of the worst offenders being the subtle trolling blogs the ‘digital-first’ Guardian endlessly, cynically, churn out).
That said; I assume that everything I write might find itself online. Yet on the occasions I do something that I know won’t be published physically, then, I’m sorry to say this, I probably take less care. Or, more likely when I inevitably get into my subject, or begin to enjoy the words I’m producing, the rhythm, the flow, or whatever, I think, ‘it’s a shame this is just for online’.
I know this might make me sound like an unprofessional dinosaur. Such a stance (and its one I’ve just reflected upon, not formulated as some sort of odd personal policy) might seem counterintuitive to whatever small professional reputation I may have accrued: an online piece will be there whenever you search my name, but there is a rationale, because although its there, I feel it’s barely read (looked at, but not read). When I write something for print, I know people have made an active (in terms of time and finances) decision to read the magazine (or monograph or whatever) and chosen to read my article. It’s the difference between shouting at a crowd of strangers to speaking in a quiet room, to your friends.
I actually got a real sense of who reads my stuff recently when I wrote what is probably the most negative review of my career (though there are a few others in contention for that prize) on the abominable Parker Ito for ArtReview. Maybe because it was Frieze week, so I and the rest of London were out and about a lot, but I got a ton of feedback from the print edition – in person, with people coming up to me, and via email. I think it was taken seriously as a polemic, a statement of my position, that I think if it were *just* an online piece, where opinion and vitriol is two-a-penny and cheap, it would not have been.